FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

GENERAL

1. What is the SF Irrigation Scheme (SFIS)?

The SF Irrigation Scheme is an irrigation system designed to deliver a reliable source of water to farmers in the South West.  It proposes the construction of a reservoir fed from the Donnelly River to assist with climate adaption for decades to come.

The reservoir will be located on the Record Brook and a 250km pipeline distribution network to supply water to farmers. It will draw water from the Record Brook catchment and the forested areas of the Upper and Middle Donnelly catchments.  The proposed reservoir is three kilometres east of the Donnelly River.

The irrigation scheme is based on an innovative model pioneered in Tasmania, the scheme ensures we make the best use of local water – one of our most precious resources. Careful scientific modelling of the water allocation and a transparent water sale and trading mechanism, means that water from the scheme will be used at optimum efficiency, without affecting existing regional water allocations.

2. How did the idea for the Scheme evolve?

In 2010 the Manjimup and Pemberton area experienced its driest year in recent history.

Two years later the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) released its Warren/Donnelly Allocation Plan. Under the plan, allocation limits for water licensing were set for all sub-catchments such as the Manjimup Brook, Smith Brook, Upper Lefroy and Eastbrook.

The plan identified the status of water availability for licensing as of December 2011 based on licenses issued at the time. This included identifying that the Upper Lefroy was fully allocated while Manjimup Brook, Smith Brook, and East Brook had limited water available. Over time this has led to many of them being fully allocated as application for water were assessed and granted. High demand catchments such as Upper Lefroy, Smith Brook, East Brook and Manjimup Brook have therefore been fully allocated since before or shortly after the plan, which led to the release of variable take licences in these and other limited catchments until late 2017.

Since then, modelling from the CSIRO and DWER has shown that, due to climate change, the situation is expected to worsen and more sub-catchments could become fully-allocated. DWER has indicated that once they fully allocate a sub-catchment it is not likely to change.

As a result, the government initiated a study under its Water for Food program to find the best way to source new water for growers in those fully allocated sub-catchments and the region as a whole to protect farmers’ against climate change. The SF Irrigation Scheme is the result of that study as it brings new water from areas not accessible to farmers in any of the sub-catchments of the region.

Water will be distributed via a pipeline network built predominantly through road reserve, State Forest or on the edge of cleared paddocks, to supply more than 90 farms spread throughout both the Manjimup and Pemberton districts. Where a pipeline exists, there may be an opportunity for local farmers to tap into the pipeline in future years.

If our region is going to continue to produce high quality fresh produce to feed Australia and the world we must make the best use of our precious water resources.

3. What is the SF Irrigation Co-operative?

The SF Irrigation Co-operative (SFIC) was formed in 2017 to operate and manage the business and operations of providing water to farms within the Manjimup – Pemberton region as part of the State Government’s SF Irrigation Scheme.

There are currently six directors on the board of the Co-operative. All are proudly local people with a link to the region going back two or three generations.

There are more than 70 members of the Co-operative. These members represent a significant portion of the area’s growers. Between them they employ hundreds, if not thousands of locals directly and indirectly.

The scheme’s management moved to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) under the Labor government and the cooperative was established in June 2017 to work alongside DPIRD in developing the scheme. 

4. Why is the scheme needed?

Global climate change modelling shows that the South West will be one of the hardest hit areas in the world.

The south west is one of the most important food producing hubs of Western Australia, as a result, the state and federal governments and the community need to look to new, innovative ways to safeguard agriculture in the South West region.

Climate change modelling from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) has confirmed rainfall is declining.  The report Selection of future climate change projections for Western Australia states: “The message in the South-West is clear. All models and the selected scenarios show decreases in rainfall and increases in temperature… South-West WA is widely reported as a region of the globe particularly sensitive to climate change.” Read the full report at http://www.water.wa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/8686/109300.pdf

The SF Irrigation scheme allows our region to continue to grow and prosper in the face of a changing climate for decades to come.

5. Why is the scheme so important?

Climate adaption is part of the required response to climate change, the scheme enables responsible climate change for our region.

Many sub-catchments in the region are fully allocated and DWER have indicated that this will be unlikely to change as all rainfall predictions suggest further rainfall decline in the future.

The SF Irrigation Scheme will assist this significant horticultural region by creating a reliable and high-quality irrigation scheme. The scheme will secure horticultural water supplies for Manjimup-Pemberton growers, enabling the region to reach its full potential as a supplier of quality fruit and vegetables to lucrative local and international markets.

The Scheme will generate jobs and stimulate spending in the local economy through the construction phase and into operations.

In addition, the reservoir will create a new ecosystem to support local flora and fauna and provide a beautiful location for the local community and visitors to enjoy through the creation of a public space that could be used for camping and water sports.

6. Who supports the scheme?

There is strong local support from farmers for the scheme. Eighty-five per cent of water entitlements are already pre-sold and there is strong demand for the remaining 15 per cent.

So far more than 70 farm businesses have paid the two per-cent deposit to sign-up to the scheme. Behind the entitlements are more than 70 farming families and businesses, collectively employing hundreds if not thousands of people.

The scheme has the financial support of the State and Federal Governments and the scientific support from WA Department of Water and Environment Regulation plus formal support from the Shire of Manjimup.  

There are many local businesses and community members that also support the scheme with direct economic benefits to them during construction and once the scheme is in operation.

7. Where else have schemes like this been delivered?

Tasmania has spent about $500 million on tranches one and two for a total of 15 schemes like the SF Irrigation Scheme.  

They have been so well received that the Government has allocated a further $70 million of state funds to develop tranche three. These schemes have been accepted as fully sustainable environmentally and economically.

Tasmania is a great example of a place where irrigation schemes have generated a broader benefit for the whole community by improving overall economic activity through job creation, as well as opening up new opportunities for local people through the creation of new public open space.

8. Which catchments is the water coming from?

The Scheme will draw water from the Record Brook catchment and the forested areas of the Upper and Middle Donnelly catchments, which is not easily accessible to landholders.  

9. Will the Scheme be taking water from other catchments?

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has confirmed that the Scheme will not take water from the Manjimup Brook catchment nor from any current water licence holders.

The allocation for the scheme was determined following rigorous scientific modelling by the Department for Water and Environmental Regulation to ensure the water collection is sustainable and does not impact existing users. Recent restrictions in Variable Take allowances on the Manjimup Brook are unrelated to the scheme.  Contact the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation for more information on catchment allocations, contact details can be found at www.dwer.wa.gov.au.

10. Who will benefit from the Scheme?

The SF Irrigation Scheme is a project that will benefit the whole community, not just farmers.  The benefits include more jobs, improved economic security and possible social benefits such as potential recreational use of the reservoir once constructed.

Water is currently going to be delivered to approximately 90 farms linked to 74 farm businesses, whom form the membership of the co-operative. These members pay for their water and hence get the benefit of receiving water at their purchased volume.

There may be an upcoming opportunity to become a member  via a sales process but also if the pipeline network goes through a landholder’s property and they have not paid to be part of the scheme they could potentially pay for a supply point and be able to be involved in water trading and therefore obtain the benefit of water.

Local businesses including irrigation suppliers and installers, earthmoving contractors, electricians, mechanic, concrete suppliers, labour hire companies, consultants, steel suppliers and fabricators, transport and logistics companies and farm machinery suppliers are expected to benefit from the on-farm works required by farmers.

11. How do I become a member?

If you are a land holder within the area please contact our office at info@sfic.com.au to find out more about becoming a member.

 

COSTS/FUNDING

1. How much will the Scheme cost?

The Scheme is projected to cost $80 million.

2. How much has been funded by the State Government?

$19 million has been committed by the State Government to date.  

3. How much has been funded by the Federal Government?

The Federal Government has committed $39.8 million for the capital cost of the Scheme under the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.

A further $1.5 million has been granted to finalise the regulatory approvals required to progress the scheme to construction.

4. What work has been done so far?

The process of seeking environmental approvals from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation and the Environmental Protection Authority is underway.

Stage one and two geotechnical investigations have been completed.

Engineering for the dam design (80%) has begun.

These works are co-managed by the SF Irrigation Co-operative and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. 

5. How much of the Scheme is being funded by local farmers?

To date, $11 million has been committed by growers who have signed up to the scheme, with a commitment of a further $54 million worth of on-farm works to prepare their farms for water supply.

Behind the entitlements are more than 70 farming families, collectively employing hundreds of local people, and even more during seasonal peaks.

These contributions demonstrate the importance of this project to the region, and the long-term investment in the future of farming in the region. 

 

INFRASTRUCTURE

1. What is involved in the construction of the scheme? What infrastructure needs to be built?

Once a contractor is appointed to deliver the project, they will develop the construction methodology.  The proposed scheme compromises a 15GL reservoir situated on Record Brook.

It will draw water from the Record Book catchment and the forested areas of the Upper and Middle Donnelly catchments, which is not easily accessible to landholders.

Water will be drawn from the Donnelly River, but only at high river flows, i.e. only after heavy rain.

From the Record Brook location, water will be pumped to a northern and southern header tanks which will allow water to be gravity fed along corresponding pipelines to farms in the Manjimup-Pemberton district. The total length of pipelines is approximately 250km. 

2. Will there be a dam on the Donnelly River?

No, the reservoir will be situated three kilometres from the Donnelly River.

3. How long will it take to build?

Late-2020                            Design and approvals complete

Early 2021                            Tender process commences

Mid to Late 2021               Construction commences

Late 2023                             Operational

 

JOBS

1. What are the economic benefits for the local area?

The Scheme will deliver significant benefits across the community including to local businesses.  The construction and operation of the scheme will provide significant direct benefits for our region:

  • 125 construction jobs
  • More than 200 direct and indirect ongoing roles
  • Increase of $9 million in annual local wages

Additionally, farmers have committed more than $54 million so far for capital and on-farm works, which are expected to flow directly into the hands of local suppliers and businesses.

Businesses including irrigation suppliers and installers, earthmoving contractors, electricians, mechanic, concrete suppliers, labour hire companies, steel suppliers and fabricators, transport and logistics companies, farm machinery suppliers, banking, insurance, accommodation and hospitality will all stand to benefit from the construction and ongoing operation of the scheme.  

The Scheme also has the potential to provide improved drought security and so will have an additional social benefit related to the reduction in financial pressure placed on farmers during drought.

2. What about other opportunities for the community?

Other benefits include potential new tourism opportunities created from the scheme through the construction of a reservoir in the state forest.

The Co-operative is discussing tourism opportunities including bushwalking, camping and fishing with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Department of Fisheries and other related parties.

 

ENVIRONMENT

1. Will there be land clearing to enable the delivery of the project?

The SF Irrigation Co-operative understands the importance of the local environment to the community and is committed to ensuring the project can be delivered with the least possible impact on the environment.

There will be up to 290ha of land cleared, with 100ha to be revegetated post construction.

No old growth forest will be impacted by the project. In addition, the pipeline network will make use of forestry tracks, road reserves and cleared paddocks where possible.

The SF Irrigation Co-operative is currently undertaking further environmental surveys and impact assessments to determine whether the amount of land to be cleared can be reduced or revegetated.

2. Will you be damming the Donnelly River?

No, the proposed Scheme involves the construction of a 15GL reservoir located on Record Brook 3km east of the river.

3. Will there be a weir on the Donnelly River?

No, it was initially thought a 4-metre weir would be needed, however design review has resulted in the weir being removed. A gauging station may be installed to ensure we can record an accurate stream flow to feed data to the pump station to meet the strict pumping controls set by the Department Water and Environmental Regulation. We are currently investigating options for monitoring equipment only, to measure the stream flow which would mean the gauging station would not be required either.

Furthermore, there will be no inundation upstream, no impact to the old bridge parts, no impact to Glenoran pools or One Tree Bridge and no impact to the riparian vegetation of the river.

The pumping strategy and infrastructure allows for better environmental outcomes because it allows the river to flow more naturally. The use of pumps will also allow the seasonal timing and volume of pumping to be fine-tuned to better meet needs of the river environment, and to protect the inflow and hydrodynamics of the Donnelly River estuary

4. How much water will be drawn from the Donnelly River?

Water will only be drawn from the Donnelly River once certain flow thresholds are met to ensure the environmental flows are maintained. The water amount drawn is variable and will depend on the flow of the river. The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation are responsible for providing the co-operative with a licence to take.  

5. How will the impact on the environment be assessed?

The scheme will be subject to the highest level of environmental approval under State and Commonwealth law, it is being assessed by the Environmental Protection Authority, with a 6-week public review.

6. How is the impact on the environment determined?

Over 20 surveys have been completed thus far by qualified professionals, who assess the environmental impact of the scheme using extensive scientific research.

7. What is being done to reduce the environmental impact?

The project has undergone many design changes to reduce the environmental impact, changes include reduction in clearing by 68ha, re-vegetation of 100ha post construction, removal of 4m high weir on the Donnelly River and the use of submersible pumps.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION

Further information about the scheme can be found about the scheme at:

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development – https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/waterforfood/southern-forests-irrigation-scheme

Warren-Donnelly surface water allocation plan (2012)

Warren-Donnelly surface water allocation plan – methods report (2012)

Warren-Donnelly surface water allocation plan – Statement of Response (2012)

Peer review of ecologically sustainable yield method in South-West Australian streams (2010)

Donnelly River allocation statement (2018)